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‘Oppenheimer’ dominates 2024 Oscars; wins best picture, director, actor

It was the Oscars of “Oppenheimer.”

Christopher Nolan’s atomic bomb epic dominated Sunday’s Academy Awards at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, winning a ceremony-high seven trophies, including best picture.

Nolan won best director, Cillian Murphy received best actor and Robert Downey Jr. took home best supporting actor for their spare-no-detail blockbuster biopic about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the complicated creator of the nuclear weapons the U.S. deployed during World War II.

The wins marked the first Oscars for Nolan, Murphy and Downey, punctuating an awards season in which all three repeatedly dominated ceremonies.

“We made a film about the man who created the atomic bomb, and for better or for worse, we’re all living in Oppenheimer’s world,” said Murphy, who starred as the titular theoretical physicist. “I’d really like to dedicate this to peacemakers everywhere.”

“Oppenheimer,” which led all films with 13 nominations, also won best cinematography, best film editing, and best original score.

The film entered Sunday’s ceremony as the heavy favorite for best picture after winning equivalent honors at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, BAFTAs and SAG Awards.

“Movies are just a little over 100 years old,” Nolan said. “Imagine being there 100 years into painting or theater. We don’t know where this incredible journey is going from here, but to know that you think I’m a meaningful part of it means the world to me.”

The awards solidified “Oppenheimer” as a rare film to excel with voters and commercial audiences alike. “Oppenheimer grossed nearly $958 million worldwide, making it the third-highest-earning movie of 2023. The year’s top-earning film, “Barbie” ($1.45 billion), came out on the same day last July as “Oppenheimer,” fueling the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon in which theatergoers committed to double features of the polar-opposite movies.

Sunday also saw Emma Stone win best actress for “Poor Things,” in which she plays a Frankenstein-like woman on a journey of self-discovery. The no-holds-barred performance marked Stone’s second best actress win, as she also received the honor in 2017 for “La La Land.”

Stone’s win came as a slight surprise, with “Killers of the Flower Moon” star Lily Gladstone fresh off a SAG Award for her depiction of an Osage woman betrayed by her white husband amid the murders that plagued oil-rich Oklahoma during the 1920s.

Gladstone was the first Native American performer to be nominated for best actress.

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, “Poor Things” also won awards Sunday for best costume design, best production design, and best makeup and hairstyling.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph won best supporting actress for “The Holdovers.” Randolph is a first-time winner thanks to her emotional portrayal of a grieving mother in one of 2023’s biggest surprises and best-reviewed films.

“For so long, I’ve always wanted to be different,” Randolph said. “And now I realize I just need to be myself. And I thank you. I thank you for seeing me.”

Sunday’s ceremony alternated between moments of heft and levity.

The 96th edition of the Academy Awards was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. EDT (4 p.m. in Hollywood), marking an hour earlier start time for a ceremony notorious for stretching past three hours. The show started about five minutes late, however, as protesters calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war congregated near the Dolby Theatre, causing traffic and delaying Oscar arrivals.

“The show, as you know, is starting an hour early this year, but don’t worry, it will still end very, very late,” host Jimmy Kimmel quipped during his opening monologue. “In fact, we’re already five minutes over, and I am not joking.”

Kimmel’s opening address also made multiple references to the monthslong screenwriters and actors strikes that halted Hollywood productions last year. He ended his monologue by bringing out behind-the-scenes workers who didn’t cross the picket line, a gesture that earned a standing ovation.

Later in the show, “20 Days in Mariupol,” a film detailing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, won best documentary feature film.

“I’m honored, but probably I will be the first director on this stage who will say I wish I never made this film,” director Mstyslav Chernov said during his acceptance speech. “I wish to be able to exchange this to Russia never attacking Ukraine.”

“Barbie” was up for best picture, though director Greta Gerwig and lead actress Margot Robbie did not receive individual nominations in what many decried as snubs.

“What an achievement to take a plastic doll nobody even liked anymore. … Now, Barbie’s a feminist icon thanks to Greta Gerwig, who many believe deserved to be nominated for best director,” Kimmel told the cheering audience. “I know you’re clapping, but you’re the ones who didn’t vote for her.”

The other best picture nominees were “Maestro,” “The Holdovers,” “American Fiction,” “Anatomy of a Fall,” “Past Lives” and “The Zone of Interest.”

The ABC late-night star Kimmel hosted the Oscars for the second year in a row and the fourth time overall. His first hosting gig came in 2017, when presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway infamously announced “La La Land” as the winner of best picture instead of the rightful recipient, “Moonlight.”

Kimmel referenced that snafu after Stone’s win Sunday, saying, “Make sure we tear up that envelope so there’s no confusion with best picture.”